FAMOUS STORYTELLERS WHO WILL INSPIRE YOU

Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, transmitted as entertainment, education, cultural preservation, or instilling moral values.

 

Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters, and narrative point of view. The term "storytelling" can refer specifically to oral storytelling but also broadly to techniques used in other media to unfold or disclose the narrative of a story.

 

In this article, we will explore some of the most famous storytellers of all time. These individuals have inspired millions of people with their amazing tales. Some are oral storytellers, while others are authors or screenwriters. They come from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. Whether you're a fan of ancient myths or modern-day fairy tales, there's something for everyone.

Famous Ancient Storytellers

 

Storytelling has always been an effective and powerful tool of communication. From something small, such as making friends to something big, like bringing a social change, storytelling has been instrumental in bringing the gaps between people and generations.

 

It is as important to listen to a story to be able to tell one. An effective storyteller successfully transports the audience/readers to different realms, enabling them to experience rich and life-changing experiences.

 

The activity of storytelling is now seen from a fresh perspective. It is not just an entertaining medium: today it pervades classrooms, presentations, and even boardroom discussions to enable sealing an effective bond with the clients.

Homer

 

Homer is the legendary author to whom the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey (the two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature) is attributed. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential authors of all time.

 

For example, in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Virgil refers to him as "Poet sovereign", king of all poets; in the preface to his translation of the Iliad, Alexander Pope acknowledges that Homer has always been considered the "greatest of poets".

 

The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Mycenaean Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war.

 

The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy.

William Shakespeare

 

He was an English playwright, poet, and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon".

 

His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of the uncertain authorship.

 

His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He remains arguably the most influential writer in the English language, and his works continue to be studied and reinterpreted.

Charles Dickens

 

Charles Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

 

His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognized him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are widely read today.

Famous Fictional Storytellers

 

Something fictional has been invented, most likely for a book, play, or movie. But if you're really self-centered, you might think a fictional story is actually about you.

 

As the adjective form of fiction, fiction covers all the creative fabrications that arise out of a person's imagination, which might then enter a novel, a screenplay, or some other form of storytelling.

 

While fictional characters may be based loosely on real-life people, they never actually existed.

Laurence Sterne

 

Laurence Sterne was an Anglo-Irish novelist and Anglican cleric who wrote the novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, published sermons and memoirs, and indulged in local politics.

 

He grew up in a military family traveling mainly in Ireland but briefly in England. An uncle paid for Sterne to attend Hipperholme Grammar School in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Joel Chandler Harris

 

Joel Chandler Harris was an American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, where he served as an apprentice on a plantation during his teenage years, Harris spent most of his adult life in Atlanta working as an associate editor at The Atlanta Constitution.

 

Harris led two professional lives: as the editor and journalist known as Joe Harris, he supported a vision of the New South with the editor Henry W. Grady (1880–1889), which stressed regional and racial reconciliation after the Reconstruction era.

 

As Joel Chandler Harris, a fiction writer and folklorist wrote many 'Brer Rabbit' stories from the African-American oral tradition.

Héctor Germán Oesterheld

 

Héctor Germán Oesterheld was an Argentine journalist and writer of graphic novels and comics. He has come to be celebrated as a master in his field and as one of the pioneering artists in Argentine modern comics.

 

Through his comics, Oesterheld criticized the numerous military dictatorships that beleaguered the country in different periods ranging from 1955 to 1983, as well as different facets of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, choosing a subtle criticism in his early comics during the 1950s and early 1960s.

 

And a stronger and more direct approach in his later work, after the execution of Che Guevara in 1967, and onwards from then on: in 1968 he wrote a biographical comic book of Che Guevara, which was subsequently banned by the Argentinian dictatorship ruling at the time.

Famous Oral Storytellers

 

Oral storytelling is an ancient and intimate tradition between the storyteller and their audience. The storyteller and the listeners are physically close, often seated together in a circular fashion.

 

The intimacy and connection are deepened by the flexibility of oral storytelling which allows the tale to be molded according to the needs of the audience and the location or environment of the telling.

 

Listeners also experience the urgency of a creative process taking place in their presence and they experience the empowerment of being a part of that creative process. Storytelling creates a personal bond between the teller and the audience.

Donald Davis

 

Donald Davis is an American storyteller, author, and minister. Davis had a twenty-year career as a minister before he became a professional storyteller. He has recorded over 25 storytelling albums and written several books.

 

His long career as a teller and his promotion of the cultural importance of storytelling through seminars and master classes has led to Davis being dubbed the "dean of storytelling".

Dan Yashinsky

 

Dan Yashinsky is a well-known Canadian storyteller, author, and community organizer. He received, in 1999, the first Jane Jacobs Prize to honor his contributions as a storyteller to enhancing Toronto’s cultural life.

 

He also received a 2009 Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council. Dan founded the Toronto Festival of Storytelling (in 1979) and co-founded the Storytellers School of Toronto. He also began the longest-running open session in North America: 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling (in 1978).

 

Dan has performed at festivals in Israel, Sweden, Norway, Holland, England, Wales, England, Germany, Brazil, Austria, France, the U.S., Singapore, and Ireland, as well as all across Canada.

 

He is the editor of four acclaimed collections of Canadian storytelling (Next Teller – A Book of Canadian Storytelling; Ghostwise – A Book of Midnight Stories; At The Edge – A Book of Risky Stories; Tales for an Unknown City) and the author of Suddenly They Heard Footsteps – Storytelling for the Twenty-first Century (Knopf Canada), which won the 2007 Ann Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award, and Swimming With Chaucer (Insomniac Press).

Mara Menzies


Mara is a narrative artist, drawing on her rich, dual Kenyan/Scottish cultural heritage, to create worlds that explore contemporary issues through legend, myth, and fantasy.


With her own vision of the beauty, history, and aspirations of people of African heritage, she fuses ancient and modern in an intoxicating experience where the audience takes center stage leading to invitations to perform across the world and to create bespoke stories for those who dare to step into the world of fantasy.

Famous Modern Storytellers

 

Stories are our friends, our counselors, and our teachers. They are a means of nurturing a moral culture in the hearts and minds of people. They stir the imagination, they bring together people and they break down barriers.

 

It is a tradition we must never lose in the rush to the cities. Storytelling is a cornerstone of human existence, and it's what enables successful people to communicate and connect with anyone and I mean anyone to this day.

 

Whatever your goal, whether to initiate social change, make a sale, or make a friend, the people who are best at it are the ones who can tell a story that makes you sit up, listen, and understand. The best storytellers' messages are heard.

Sheryl Sandberg

 

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, uses her platform to address common problems today's men and women face through personal anecdotes.

 

The stories are ones we can all recognize and relate to. By tapping into such deeply personal experiences ones we're often surprised to hear about from someone so powerful she generates empathy in her listeners and readers, empowering them to reach greater heights.

 

Sharing personal stories makes you feel vulnerable, but it's that vulnerability that resonates with and connects you to other people.

Leymah Gbowee

 

Activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee's ability to tell an impactful story with not words, but actions, contributed directly to the ending of a 14-year long war in Liberia and the free election of Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

 

She spearheaded peaceful yet remarkable movements to get her message of peace across most notably a month-long sex strike for which she mobilized thousands of women as well as a daring move in which those women gathered in an open field, wearing stark white shirts brandishing the WIPNET name, to garner media attention for their cause.

 

Among many other remarkable and peaceful acts, she also mobilized the movement's women through pictures on flyers to spread the message, to those women who could not read. You can tell your story without words. Sometimes, the impact is far greater without them.

Richard Branson

 

Richard Branson is one of the richest and as a result, one of the most powerful men in the world. And yet, he's not afraid to open the kimono. Branson never shies away from a conversation, an opportunity to tell stories about the little remarkable moments of his life, and the lives of others.

 

He shares what he thinks, what he does, what he's seen, and what he's heard and that openness of personality is reflected in his brand. He understands that it's the nuances, even if they're a little less than polished, that make someone or something captivating.

 

Flaws make stories interesting, and more relatable. Don't worry about polishing every little detail of your story just tell it. Even the naughty bits. Actually, especially the naughty bits.

Famous Black Storytellers


An integral aspect of changing stereotypes, storytelling is an inherent way of life for Africans. Everybody has a tale to tell and everybody tells it in different ways. Africans are telling their stories and others in multiple formats. They all are doing amazing things, making great strides at home and abroad.


Nosa Garrick: Garrick directs and executive produces My Africa Is, a documentary series that showcases African realities. Since four years ago, the show has so far chronicled Nairobi, Dakar, Lagos, and Ghana. Garrick uses her platform to highlight the untapped potential and the necessity of empowering Africa’s youth.


Teddy Goitom: a Swedish-Ethiopian/Eritrean content producer, Goitom founded Stocktown in 1998. He also directed Afripedia, a documentary series on Angolan, Kenyan, South African, Senegalese, and Ghanaian creatives. Afripedia serves as a visual guide to art, film, photography, fashion, design, music, and contemporary culture.


Damilare Sonoiki: a writer for ABC’s Black-ish, Sonoiki wrote and directed his own comedy pilot called African Booty Scratcher. The project, about an immigrant Nigerian family in America, successfully raised its target of $30k on Kickstarter. He studied economics at Harvard, worked on Wall Street, and then moved to LA to embark on his TV writing career.


Nnedi Okorafor: Nigerian-American science fiction and fantasy author, Okorafor published Who Fears Death, which won the World Fantasy Best Novel Award; Akata Witch, an Amazon Best Book of the Year; and Zahrah the Windseeker, which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature. She and Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu were selected by Triggerfish Animation Studios in Dec. 2015 to develop their animated feature film “The Camel Racer” for its inaugural Story Lab.


Wanuri Kahiu: Kenyan film director Kahiu has received multiple awards and nominations for her films. In 2009, she bagged a total of twelve nominations and earned five awards for From a Whisper at the 2009 AMAA. According to CNN, she is “one of Africa’s most aspirant directors, being part of a new, vibrant crop of talents representing contemporary African culture.” She also directed Pumzi and Homecoming.

Famous Female Storytellers

 

Female storytellers are everywhere, ranging from proclaimed authors and high-flying business owners to mothers, sisters, and friends. Yet despite this prevalence, I was shocked when I saw the male-centered list Google presented me with after searching “Top Female Storytellers.’

 

And so, in an effort to remedy what I consider to be a miss-representation of these silver-tongued women, I have compiled a list of 8 women who employ storytelling in a variety of forms and styles.

 

Stories have been used in every culture since the birth of humanity. We see them in our ads, we read them in our books, we watch them in films and we tell them to our friends and family. There are a variety of storytelling styles such as prose, speech, and visual art…

 

But still, it was only in 2010 that Katheryn Bigelow became the first female director to win an Oscar.

 

It isn’t that women are any less talented storytellers (I know this for a fact because the juiciest stories I’ve heard in my life have always been transmitted by women), but it seems to be that women haven’t been given the platform or opportunity to tell their tales.

Sheryl Sandberg


Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and COO of Facebook uses storytelling throughout her talks in order to allow the audience to understand both who she is and what points she is making. Each story is poignant and well placed. In her story-filled TED Talk, Sandberg brings the audience in with anecdote after anecdote.


She makes the story personal and offers a unique and intimate insight into who she is.


She gives her characters clear features and a strong sense of identity to allow easy visualization.


Each of her stories makes use of a simple, straightforward structure to emphasize points.


She employs light humor and a healthy dose of humility, presenting herself as a relatable figure and someone far more accessible to emulate than other impossibly successful individuals.


Her tone is entertaining and she plays around with pace and rhythm when speaking.


Her use of storytelling not only makes her speech relatable and easy to understand but welcoming. There is a connection made through the talk, as she honestly leaves the audience feeling like they know who Sandberg is and what it is that she stands for.

Tig Notaro

 

Mostly known for her stand-up comedy, Tig Notaro is also an actress and activist.

 

She tells deep and personal stories and manages to create an immersive experience for her readers thanks to her wonderful use of humor throughout her narrative. It can be seen in her Moth Storytelling performance “R2: Where are you.”

 

As a comedian, it makes sense that Notaro’s main key to storytelling, as seen in her performance at The Moth, is breaking up the narrative with humor. In doing so, she warms the audience up and creates an even darker contrast when eventually referring to darker material such as her mother’s brain hemorrhage.

 

Notaro’s comedic interludes in this incredibly personal story can be seen as a foil or antidote to the darkness we are really being confronted with.

J.K.Rowling

 

Joanne Rowling, the world-famous author, is known for her storytelling abilities worldwide with Harry Potter sales now topping 400 million.

 

The author of the phenomenon conjured a whole world from scratch, inventing new sports with intricate rules, a menagerie of magical creatures, and even new words (some of which have found their way into modern dictionaries!).

 

This creative mind seems to know no bounds, and her capacity to create a world that transcends age, gender, and culture is a testament to her skill as a storyteller.

 

However, for me, it is Rowling’s characters that represent the true jewel in her storytelling crown. The beauty of the characters that J. K. Rowling has developed is that they are never defined as simply good or bad; they each are developed with intricate mannerisms and values.

 

With the help of the Hogwarts houses, which each represent different defining traits, she manages to build and weave overlaying foundations to the complexity of each character. Oftentimes her characters are separated into four different defining traits by splitting them into houses.

 

Rowling’s multifaceted characters are complex and well developed, they draw the readers into the narrative and their internal struggles define the pivotal core moments throughout the books.

Famous Children's Storytellers


Introducing the literary world to stories like Captain Underpants and Bronx Masquerade has been noteworthy. Authors and illustrators strive to create work that is memorable and cherished. Lets explore the lives of famous children’s storytellers, and the mark they continue to make on many book lovers.


Charles Schulz


This Minnesota native was an artist from the start. Charles Schulz started getting recognized for his talent as a kindergartner! Soon after, his dedication to the Peanut gang became his biggest asset. Laugh along in this engaging read for young students.


Christopher Paul Curtis


Relatable characters are the stars of Christopher Paul Curtis's works. He never wants children, especially African-American children, to struggle to connect with books. That was the challenge of his childhood. This look at Curtis’s rise to the award-winning author will motivate beginning readers.


Chris Van Allsburg


Did you know that a canine appears in Jumanji, The Polar Express, and other Chris Van Allsburg books? He’s a white bull terrier named Fritz. In this low-level biography, developing readers will find inspiration for using their imaginations to combine the normal and the unexpected.


Judy Blume


Praised for capturing what it means to be a young teen, Judy Blume excels as a children’s author. She has always enjoyed creating characters and helping them grow through tough times. Learn about Blume’s path as an author in this interesting title for young students.


Kate DiCamillo


The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures are two award-winning books by Kate DiCamillo. As a child, DiCamillo was often sick in bed, but this allowed her imagination to flourish. Readers can follow DiCamillo’s journey and spark their own imaginations in this alluring book for students!


Laura Ingalls Wilder


Born on the prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a true pioneer. She devoted much of her life to helping others in the classroom and on the farm. Travel the Midwest with the author in this informational title for beginning readers.


Lemony Snicket


The title of Lemony Snicket’s most famous collection, A Series of Unfortunate Events, is far from a fitting description of the author’s life. Snicket has been fortunate enough to sell more than 60 million copies of his books worldwide! This life story of one zany writer will amuse curious readers.

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